Thursday, February 28, 2019

Solution to A Makes B Worse

There's one interesting mistake pattern that Bioware has made a couple of times so far in Anthem.

Basically, Bioware predicted that Situation A would be problematic and devised a solution for A. However, in practice, it turns out that Situation B is more common, and that solution actually makes B worse.

For example, take tethering in missions. If you get too far away from the group, a warning pops up and then the game will automatically port you to the group (unfortunately, this requires a loading screen). It's clearly intended for people who go the wrong way, or get turned around, or just get lost. Porting that player to the group is a great solution for this situation.

However, it turns out that the more common scenario is for one player to be a little bit slower than the group, and she falls behind a little bit. Maybe she's not as good at flight, or took a few seconds to look around before taking off. She's still going in the right direction, and will catch up eventually. However, the tethering mechanic triggers and can port her, which is very annoying.

Bioware made the mechanic more forgiving in the Day One patch. However, the basic issue remains. There are too many false positives with the tethering mechanic.

A similar thing is happening in quick-play. If someone leaves a mission, then the spot is back-filled from the quick-play queue. This is a great solution to handle people who just leave missions for arbitrary reasons. But it turns out that the reason most people don't leave missions arbitrarily. Most of the time they leave missions is because the mission is bugged, which is a really good reason to leave. Then quick-play people get back-filled into the instance and can't do anything, end up leaving as well, and the cycle continues. Even if only a tiny percentage of missions bug out, those are the ones that people will always see in quick-play.

One has to wonder if it would have been better if Anthem just did not back-fill at all. If someone leaves, well, you carry on with three people. Quick-play always starts you with a fresh mission.

The main thing here is that the "effectiveness" of the solution depends on the frequency of the problem. If getting lost was more common than falling behind, there would be minimal complaints about tethering. If people leaving was more common than bugged missions, quick-play back-filling would be a great solution.

Of course, these issues will get fixed by narrowing the solution. Maybe tethering will consider if you are moving in the right direction before triggering. Or back-filling might put a cap on the number of people that fill. Like the queue will fill 2 empty spots, but after that it will mark the mission as unsalvageable, so no more people cycle in.


  1. Some places seem to be more strict with the tether than others, like swimming sections in the first stronghold. The overheat meter is obscured during the timer too, making catching up more difficult, but today's patch has further relaxed the tethering timer so hopefully that helps.

    I had a couple interesting experiences that made use of an impenetrable barrier. The idea is that when a key fight begins, nobody should be able to leave the immediate area, so a barrier is created blocking the exit. Unfortunately, the exit is also the entrance and, despite being mere steps behind the leader, I had been locked out of the fight by running headlong into the barrier.

    In one case, I was in a cave complex doing a contract and a second party member was also locked out. I ran all the way to the entrance hoping to trigger the tether (with no luck) and found another barrier at the cave entrance as well. The tether actually did eventually trigger, but only after I followed most of the waypoints back to the encounter room. When the fight finished, I could still see the other party member hovering just outside the barrier, which never came down.

    1. Yeah, I ran into that barrier issue as well recently. If the barrier goes up, the tether mechanic should automatically trigger and port everyone inside.

  2. I don't get why this isnt a player confirmed event. Pop up, press a button to confirm the port. Considering all the other times you need to confirm...

  3. Not even player confirmed. Player should be able to initiate on demand, and it should never be force automated

    1. I disagree with this. The type of person who would get lost is also the type of person who would not know how to initiate the tether. Forced automation is good for the desired use case.

    2. "The type of person who would get lost is also the type of person who would not know how to initiate the tether."

      I don't think this holds. I have gotten lost a few times in the open world areas because the path for the next waypoint is obscured but I'm pretty sure I'd know how to activate a tether. Or at least I hope so.

      I do think an initiate on demand option would be good for this situation. It should mirror the 'Hold R to join expedition' or whatever it says in the fort when you're in a party and someone is waiting to launch while you're walking around. This would put it out of the way to allow the overheat meter to be visible and would be a consistent mechanic for joining up.

      This doesn't have to be the only way to tether though, as there could still be situations (such as barriers) where tethering can be forced. But since the latest patch has relaxed the open world tether to the point where it seems nonexistent, I would find a player initiated tether occasionally helpful.

    3. Yeah, a "Hold R to rejoin" option would work. I was assuming that you'd need to go into the menus to find the option.

      However, I think all the console buttons are actually used in regular play. I don't think there is a free button that you could hold. You'd have to override an existing button, and that has problems if you don't want to rejoin.